Agosto Cuellar amid the wares up for grabs at Saturday's closing reception for "Jive Refried."
Sitting at a small desk in Beacon Hill’s Clamp Light Artist Studios and Gallery, beloved San Antonio creator Agosto Cuellar scans the sunlit room he’s decorated with the final relics of Jive Refried, a Southtown vintage emporium he ran from 1999 to 2011. Intentionally blurring boundaries between gallery and boutique, art installation and conceptual merchandising, the exhibition on view — curated by Clamp Light resident Sarah Castillo and simply titled “Jive Refried” — commemorates the bygone shop’s 20th anniversary.
Amid a visual memoir of oddly dressed mannequins, fashion photographs and reconfigured accessories, a placemat-sized panel covered in fake blue flowers catches his eye. Untacking it from the wall, he folds it in half and clutches it, modeling the item as if it’s a statement-making handbag. The purpose of this exercise is to illustrate his long-standing love affair with rasquache — an artistic practice that involves celebrating, repurposing and transforming whatever materials might be at hand.
Closely tied to Chicano art, the “underdog” aesthetic of rasquache has been a
constant in Cuellar’s work, which has evolved from early experiments with polymer clay to full collections of vintage garments he transforms with folkloric flourishes and an eclectic assortment of odds and ends — aprons, lace remnants, crocheted doilies, scraps of knitwear, you name it. In years past, these imaginative creations have come light at local events such as the Art of Fashion at Blue Star Contemporary and Runway en la Calle, the wildly alternative fashion show component of the multimedia West Side block party Una Noche en la Gloria.
In tandem with Jive’s anniversary, Cuellar is focusing on taking things to the next level with a new collection that will be shown during the official fashion weeks of New York and Paris as part of a partnership with the New York-based retailer and producer Flying Solo. Titled “Barrio Folk Baroque,” the tight collection of eight looks marks a stylistic departure for Cuellar since it entailed using vintage garments only as patterns for new pieces created with fabric he inherited from late local designer Kathleen Sommers.
Although San Antonians will have to wait until our own take on Fashion Week returns in October, they can help bring “Barrio Folk Baroque” to life by contributing to his GoFundMe campaign (San Antonio To Paris Fashion Week 2020
) or making a purchase at the closing reception of his “Jive Refried” exhibition on Saturday. “Jive Refried” Closing Reception
Free, noon-7pm Sat, Aug 3, Clamp Light Artist Studios and Gallery, 1704 Blanco Rd., (620) 218-1568, clamplightsa.com.